Former Asiana CEO Fined For Denying Menstrual Leave

Filed Under: Asiana

We’ve seen former airline executives get in trouble for their actions years after leaving their jobs. For example, Thai Airways’ former chairman has been jailed for trying to avoid excess baggage fees, while Garuda Indonesia’s former CEO has been jailed for bribery and money laundering.

Well, the former CEO of Asiana Airlines is now in trouble, but for a rather unusual reason.

Former Asiana CEO denied menstrual leave

Kim Soo-cheon, the former CEO of South Korea’s Asiana Airlines, has been fined over his actions when he was CEO of the airline. Specifically, the former CEO is accused of turning down 138 requests from 15 flight attendants for menstrual leave between May 2014 and June 2015.

In South Korea, menstrual leave is protected by employment law. Since 1953, women in South Korea have been able to take off one day each month if they have painful periods. It would appear that the flight attendants in question took an average of nine days off over 13 months for this leave, which would be less than what they’re entitled to.

Kim argued that there were “many suspicious cases,” as employees allegedly typically requested this leave around holidays or days off. He also argued that employees didn’t provide sufficient proof of menstruation (ummm, what?!).

It’s not entirely clear to me if the CEO was somehow involved in this directly (which would seem like a strange use of his time, and borderline creepy, especially if he’s asking for proof), or if he just instructed others to deny leave if it appeared “suspicious.”

Asiana A380 business class

Former Asiana CEO now fined $1,800

A court in South Korea found that Kim was in the wrong, and he has been fined two million won, or around $1,800. The court stated that asking employees to prove they were having their period would “infringe upon privacy and human rights,” and would also discourage them from using the leave they’re entitled to.

While Kim was initially indicted for this in 2017, on Sunday the ruling was upheld by a higher court, noting that there was no legal mistake or misunderstanding in the original ruling.

I imagine this ruling was more intended as a slap on the wrist and to shame him for what he did, but an $1,800 fine sure seems mild otherwise. That’s a mere $13 per day of denied menstrual leave.

Asiana A321 business class

Bottom line

Asiana’s former CEO will be forced to pay a roughly $1,800 fine for denying menstrual leave to 15 flight attendants a total of 138 times over the course of around 13 months. He argued that the leave was suspicious due to the timing and wanted proof, but, well…

  1. Reminds me of the Dilbert cartoon where the manager returned furious after a meeting with HR.

    He called his team together and explained that he was outraged to discover that exactly 40% of sick days were either on a Monday or a Friday, and how stupid did they think he was…?

  2. @The nice Paul

    But it wasn’t 40% in this case. It was more like 90%. And it wasn’t a certain day of the week. It was precisely the day before or after a “long holiday”, which only comes around twice a year. So the vast majority of eligible people decided to claim a period break on precisely the same two days in a certain month. Given how many female employees there are in the airline industry, Asiana was actually having trouble staffing flights on these occasions due to shortage of workers.

  3. It’s a scam. I am a reproductive health care physician and am willing to bet the majority of female air personnel are using birth control. If they are on combined oral contraception or the implant or depo injections they do not ovulate and do not get menstrual pain.
    In fact these are treatments for dysmenorrhoea. it’s about time the public learned more basic biology.
    In addition orals can be taken continuously in such a way that bleeding is usually minimised or non existent. I worked in London for many years and helped flight crew do exactly this.
    Of course there are gynecological conditions which do cause pain as are there conditions of the bowels and kidneys and other areas which also do.
    Sick leave should therefore be granted only under the same conditions for all personnel, including men and for all types of medical conditions. The CEO is correct.

  4. So what if these women were scheduling their leave around holidays. Leave (of various kinds) is part of the benefits and compensation of any job. So what if the employees “optimise” that. It’s their right. If I had been the judge I would have been a bit more creative in handing down the punishment…

  5. Hold up, why does it feel like a sizeable number of comments here got deleted? I could’ve sworn there were more than 4…

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